As the case of Michael McKevitt continues to alert media attention, it must be noted that there has been a significant degree of prejudice surrounding everything about the case over many years.
In 2007, the prison rules were ‘updated’ to include a process whereby any prisoner categorized at enhanced level by the prison authorities are eligible for upwards of one-third enhanced remission of their original sentence. The state conceded that Michael McKevitt has been an enhanced level prisoner over many years, has participated in the relevant structured activity as outlined in the rules and yet he has to battle through the courts to win what he should automatically be available to him. Why has the media not the courage to report that there is a serious transgression in this case and this latest courtroom battle compounds this very fact.
In the present proceedings by Mr McKevitt, his impressive educational and other activities within the prison has placed him within a category which, by all accounts should have seen him released in July 2014. The state’s case against McKevitt is, that while he is a prisoner with enhanced level status, he doesn’t qualify due to the fact that he has not disassociated himself from an illegal organization and also that he has shown no remorse. They also suggest that he ‘may’ re-offend after he leaves prison. The contradictions contained throughout the state papers expose a prejudice and unfairness which has been intertwined in this case for a very long time.
Michael McKevitt has always protested his innocence from the outset and almost 14 years later he has not moved from that position. If someone is of the view that they are innocent of the charges that have been made against them, then it is inevitable that they will desist from anything other that holding firm to that position. As for his political belief and his ideals, he certainly doesn’t hide the fact that he is a republican opposed to the partition of Ireland, just like many others throughout the island.
The next impediment that the state placed in his way is an accusation that he may re-offend after he leaves prison. This is a hypothetical assumption and cannot be backed up by anything concrete – in fact who is qualified to make such an assertion and more importantly what is it based upon. The documents in court show that these weak assumptions are completely baseless. This man has been in prison for the past 14 years. He is in his mid sixties – not an age that someone is likely to suddenly become hyper active in the everyday running of republican politics.
The deliberate hurdles that the state have placed in the way of Michael McKevitt’s early release appear to be completely groundless and certainly do not stand up to scrutiny.
By all accounts Michael McKevitt is eligible for one-third enhanced remission as it stands. The state has decided to deny him relief and without a valid reason for doing so. Over many years, the case of Michael McKevitt has highlighted the numerous breaches of his rights and it appears that they continue to this day.
In 2002, McKevitt was offered a deal by the state to plead guilty to membership of the IRA or he would face life in prison for directing the activities of the organization. He refused to accept any deal and protested his innocence. Many human rights observers including some from the legal profession, who attended Michael’s trial in 2003, described it as one of the worst human rights abuses ever witnessed in an Irish courtroom.
The only witness against McKevitt was a self-confessed paid perjurer, who received $5 million from the FBI and MI5 to secure the conviction. Documented evidence in the court revealed that on one occasion the super-grass said to his MI5 handler: “tell me what to do, make it worth my while and as long as the benefit overrides risk in my view it will be done to the best of my ability.”
March 2001 ….Michael McKevitt was arrested under a s29 search warrant
April 2001 ….The Irish prosecution service announced that an FBI/MI5 informant and self confessed perjurer David Rupert would testify against Michael McKevitt in his forthcoming trial in Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.
October 2002….Disclosure hearing in the McKevitt case turns into a political show-trial as the British Ambassador Ivor Roberts appears as state witness. Roberts evidence to the court was minuscule, irrelevant and eventually it amounted to nothing other than raising the politically charged atmosphere for the impending show-trial.
Former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan tells the disclosure hearing that the Gardai retained no records on David Rupert at any time.
June 2003…..Trial of Michael McKevitt begins. During the trial it emerged through disclosure documents that the super-grass David Rupert was interviewed by journalists in Chicago after McKevitt’s arrest in 2001. Rupert informed the journalists that the trial of McKevitt was a foregone conclusion and that he would be convicted by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. He also informed the journalists that he was informed of this by his FBI/MI5 and Garda handlers.
July 2003….After the defence legal team discovered conflicting evidence which revealed that Rupert had misled the court, the court were challenged by the defence team and a new trial was requested, the court refused and McKevitt withdrew from the hearing describing it as nothing more than a political show-trial. From that point the trial turned into the farce that it was with only the prosecution, the Garda witnesses and the judges present in the courtroom.
August 6th 2003 ….McKevitt convicted and sentenced to 20 years on the word of a paid perjurer and super-grass.
October 2008….Hearing in Omagh Civil Case…..Assistant Garda Commissioner Dermot Jennings under cross examination by Michael O’Higgins SC told the court that the Gardai had retained many records/files on David Rupert since 1995 and that he (Jennings) had viewed them before he came to court that day. This was a significant development in the case as it exposed an obvious contradiction to evidence given to the court (disclosure hearing) by Martin Callinan in 2002. On that occasion Callinan told the court that no records on David Rupert were retained by the Gardai at any time and if there was he would have known about them. The conflicting evidence between the two former senior Gardai openly exposed a blatant abuse in the case of Michael McKevitt which could only be described as perjury by a senior member of the Gardai. The conflicting evidence confirmed that one of the two senior members of the Gardai had perjured himself before the court in Michael McKevitt’s case.
Subsequently the DPP’s office were contacted by Mr McKevitt’s solicitor (MacGuill & Co) seeking the Rupert records which had been mentioned in evidence by Jennings. The DPP”s office dismissed the request for the records and said that they were unaware of any records and the matter was closed. There could be no doubt that this was another obvious abuse perverting the course of justice.
January 2012….Damache, Supreme Court decision which ruled that the s29 warrant on the search of the dwelling was unconstitutional.
After the Damache ruling it emerged that a similar warrant had been used on the search of Mr McKevitt’s home which should have had ramifications for his subsequent arrest. This in turn would have tainted the entirety of the arrest and subsequent trial of Michael McKevitt regardless of time span, if his constitutional rights were breached in 2001 the time lapse shouldn’t have made any difference. Subsequently, Michael took the case of a constitutional breach to the High Court highlighting that a defective s29 warrant which was used on the morning of his arrest in 2001.
Although the state conceded that the s29 warrant used on the morning of his arrest was unconstitutional and that it breached his constitutional rights, the High Court found that the defective warrant was so long ago that it wasn’t relevant and the application was dismissed.
October 2013….Following legal procedure Michael appealed to the High Court to have a hearing in the Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutional breach. The High Court refused the request to go before the Supreme Court and his appeal was dismissed.
July 14th 2014….Michael McKevitt applied to the prison authorities for a one-third remission which the High Court had previously ruled was available to all prisoners who were at enhanced level and who had a good conduct record.
August 2014….Niall Farrell, republican prisoner from E2 landing Portlaoise was granted one-third remission by the High Court and he was released immediately from prison. In Farrell’s case the High Court stated that he had been unlawfully detained since April 2014 when the one-third enhanced remission should have kicked in for him.
August 2014….Although Michael McKevitt’s case was similar to the Farrell case, bizarrely Michael was refused the one-third remission by the Minister for Justice on the grounds that he didn’t qualify. Initially no other information was forthcoming from the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
August 2014….Michael took his case for the one-third remission to the High Court.
For the hearing the IPS submitted an affidavit to the High Court which contained details of a poor attempt to justify the refusal of the one-third remission. It’s difficult to establish how anyone from the IPS could come up with such vague and unfounded comments justifying their reasons for the refusal of the enhanced remission in this case. Included in the IPS document it stated that Michael has always described himself as a “political hostage” and this assertion was included as part of the reason why he shouldn’t be entitled to the enhanced remission. Also included in the affidavit was a vague Garda report which stated that Michael may re-offend when released?
August 2014….In a separate case the Supreme Court overturned the rule on article 40 for enhanced remission and states that the proper way to proceed with such a complaint was through the judicial review process.
September 2014…Michael’s legal team attempts to withdraw his article 40 application as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, however Mr Justice Barton refused to allow him to withdraw and continued with the judgment of the earlier hearing.
September 1st 2014 ….Michael begins his next court challenge with a judicial review for the one-third enhanced remission and the case is on-going.
State interference and prejudice throughout the case of Michael McKevitt has been very evident. Despite all the negativity thrown at him over the years, he has stood firm and has challenged everything along the way. Leaving all the misinformed media bias and hostility aside, there can be little doubt that something is seriously amiss in this case and has been for a very long time.
Ironically to add to the states woes in the case of Michael McKevitt, even if he doesn’t receive the one-third enhanced remission, with the ordinary remission of 25% Michael McKevitt is due for release on Easter Monday 2016, a significant date in the calendar for a ‘political hostage’.